Historical Hysterics: The “Brooklyn Bone-snatcher”

Dr Michael Mastromarino

Dr Michael Mastromarino

Take out the bones, put in the pipes. Whose gonna know?

Take out the bones, put in the pipes. Whose gonna know?


July 7, 2013

Doctor Michael Mastromarino died today in a New York hospital. The man was 49 years old and serving a prison sentence at the time. You may or may not recall the former oral surgeon. But he became quite famous several years ago, when he decided the optimal path to wealth-building was not to be found among the living. Why stoop to anything so mundane as patient care, when stealing body parts from cadavers at funeral homes was so much more, shall we say, interesting?

It seems that madman Mastromarino was – in the early 2000s – a chronic drug addict, and when the state of New York found that he was performing surgery on patients while strung out on narcotics, they pulled his medical license in 2002. Of course “health care” being what it is, he had no problem at all becoming relicensed, this time as a  human tissue bank and biological surgical instrument supplier. So being a creative sort of fellow, he cultivated a sneaky clan of mortuary staff and started paying them $1000 for each “suitable” body. Then he hired “assistants” Christopher Aldorasi and Lee Cruceta, and went into business. Biomedical Tissue Services. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Sounds legit?

No it wasn’t, my friends. Not even close. Mastromarino was cutting out bones, tissue and organs from New York’s dead residents. And to make it all work, he would fake patient charts, medical records, transfer forms and death certificates, all making the patient age, health status and cause of death appear . . . you know . . . legal.

And do you want to know the really cool part? Mastromarino was raking in $10,000 per body. On good days he and his psycho friends could chop up seven or eight poor folks, and who had to know?

But then, here come those damned Brooklyn New York cops, investigating irregularities at the Daniel George & Son Funeral Home in Bensonhurst, in 2005. Weird news reports started popping up of course, revealing appalling details, like a secret room in the funeral home set up for surgeries; leg bones replaced by plastic PVC pipes, so the bodies would appear, you know, normal, at open casket viewings.

Alistair Cooke

Alistair Cooke

One of the bodies they cut up and distributed to hospitals was world famous. It belonged to Alistair Cooke, the highly respected English newsman and former TV host of “Masterpiece Theater.” They sent this gentleman’s arms and leg bones out, too – to be implanted into living people – even though his body was wracked with cancer cells.

But all good things must come to an end, and the macabre Doctor Mastromarino was finally handcuffed in 2006, along with two of his body cutters and an embalmer. He changed his “Not Guilty” plea to “Guilty” in 2008, to numerous charges of Body Theft, Corruption, Reckless Patient Endangerment. He was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years. He and his wife, Barbara were ordered to pay nearly $5,000,000  to the victims’ relatives.

As for the famous  Alister Cooke, well, his adult daughter Susan Cooke Kittredge, said this, in an article in New York Magazine:

“My father would have been just horrified by the illegal harvesting. But he would have appreciated the Dickensian nature of the crime. ”

Rev Susan Cooke Kittredge

Rev Susan Cooke Kittredge

Ah, American medicine. Don’t you just love it?

Have a terrific weekend, readers, and thank you for your continued support.

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